BOEING'S STARLINER SPACECRAFT (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     7th May 2024        
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Context: Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, carrying two NASA astronauts, will be launched by an Atlas V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the Inter- national Space Station (ISS).

Boeing's Starliner Spacecraft

  • About: Starliner is a partially reusable crew capsule, officially known as CST-100, developed by Boeing.
  • Structure: The capsule is 5 meters tall and 4.6 meters wide, consisting of two modules: the crew module and the service module.
  • Service Module: Supplies electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air, and water in space.

oNot reusable like the crew module.

  • Mission Objective

oTo evaluate Starliner's performance in space with a crew onboard.

oDock with the ISS a day after launch and return to Earth after around 10 days.

Significance of the Mission:

  • NASA's Need for Options: The success of Starliner's mission is critical for NASA, providing a second option alongside SpaceX for transporting astronauts and cargo to the ISS.
  • Boeing's Stakes: The mission's success is especially vital for Boeing, given recent safety issues in its airline business, making its space program a potential redemption opportunity.

How has Boeing's journey been?

  • Post-Space Shuttle Era: After NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, commercial space companies like SpaceX and Boeing were invited to aid in transporting astronauts and cargo to the ISS.
  • Challenges: Starliner, Boeing's spacecraft, faced significant setbacks, including hardware and software failures, delaying its uncrewed flight.
  • Technical Hurdles: Starliner required over 80 fixes to achieve a successful uncrewed flight, with ongoing concerns about thruster performance and safety systems.